Pino wants to stay at Casa Alpina where he feels he is doing valuable work, but Father Re tells him he must return to his father. Alberto drives Pino to the train station and tells him to come back when he can to finish his driving lessons. Several hours later, Pino’s train arrives in Milan. Albert and Michele are at the station, waiting to meet him. The first thing Pino notices about his father and uncle is how much older they look. Meanwhile, Michele and Albert say the same thing about Pino. While driving through Milan, Pino spots more people he labels as gray men laboring throughout the city. He asks Albert about them, but Albert says they’ll talk about it later, while motioning to their suspicious-looking driver.
Pino knows that returning to Milan means putting the important work he’s doing at Casa Alpina on pause, which could result in fewer lives being saved. Nonetheless, he returns to his father and uncle, who immediately notice how much he's matured. Pino sees differences in Michele and Albert as well, but their aging is clearly a regression, unlike Pino’s. The men Pino spots while driving through the city are similar to those he saw earlier at the train station. From this moment forward, he dubs them the gray men, a title which emphasizes their lack of liveliness.
While driving through the city, Pino quickly realizes that the Nazis have seized complete control of Milan. When entering their new apartment building, Pino is forced to show his papers to Nazi guards who now permanently stand watch. As Pino enters his new apartment, his father informs him that the lower part of the building functions as Nazi headquarters in Milan. He also informs Pino of the reason he brought him home; Pino is about to turn 18, meaning he will soon be drafted into the Italian Army. Michele does not want this for his son because the Italian army is currently being sent to the Russian front, a certified death trap.
In only a few months, life has completely changed in Milan. Even at home, Pino has Nazis right below his feet; he cannot escape them while in the city. Additionally, Pino’s coming of age is not without its difficulties. During wartime, all 18-year-olds were expected to join the army, and Pino is no exception. Over 300,000 young Italian men died in the line of duty during World War II, many of whom were sent to the Russian front.
Instead, Michele wants Pino to enroll himself in the Nazi army where he can sit out the war comfortably, likely performing construction jobs. He would work as a part of Organization Todt, and Albert has connections that would ensure him the job. Pino protests, before ultimately agreeing to think on it. After, Pino accompanies Albert to his shop where he finds his Aunt Greta and Tullio. Tullio tells him that Barbareschi recently escaped San Vittore prison, but now Rauff wants Tullio brought in for questioning. This makes it impossible for Tullio to spy on Rauff, as he had been doing previously.
If Pino agrees to his father’s request, he will be doing the exact opposite of the work he was doing at Casa Alpina. Pino wants to feel like he is doing the right thing and joining Organization Todt is far from it in his mind. However, resisting the Nazis is a dangerous game, as he learns from Tullio, who is now attempting to avoid Nazis in a city swarming with them.
Because Tullio cannot freely move around the city, Albert asks Pino to complete one of his normal tasks. Pino must deliver papers to a man on the other side of the city, although he is not told what the papers contain. Pino agrees to do so, knowing that being caught means being killed. Pino goes to the apartment where he is meant to deliver the papers and finds a man named Baka. Pino discovers that Baka is a radio operator who switches apartments every day so the Nazis cannot find him. After meeting with Baka, Pino decides he will join the resistance rather than become a Nazi.
Pino is eager to perform a task for Albert and feel as though he’s contributing to the Italian resistance. Again, he shows bravery and risks his life for the cause. In doing so, he realizes that he cannot in good conscience join the SS—not when there are so many people fighting for the future of Italy on the side of justice.
On his way back from Baka’s apartment, Pino goes to see the Beltraminis. Pino spots Mr. Beltramini first who tells him that Carletto is upstairs helping his mother. Unfortunately, Mrs. Beltramini has only a few months left to live. Pino goes and sees Carletto and the two of them spend time catching up, though Carletto is clearly depressed by his mother’s condition. Afterwards, Pino heads home. On his way, he sees a Nazi patrol take a gun from a civilian and shoot him in the head. Pino arrives home and reunites with his mother. Soon after, Greta arrives and tells them that Tullio has been taken by the Gestapo. Everyone is shocked and Porzia tells Pino that he will join the SS, whether he wants to or not.
The Beltraminis’s situation is especially heart-wrenching because they are dealing with the gradual death of a loved one on top of everything else. While returning from his friend’s house, Pino witnesses a casual and brutal act of violence, which he soon learns is standard procedure for the Nazis. This makes him feel even more disgusted at the idea of joining the SS, but his mother tells him he has no choice. Even though Pino is now an adult, his mother ultimately makes his decision for him, suggesting that he still hasn’t fully matured into his own person.